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Mobile Design Positioning Statements for Design

The level of receptiveness of History students, faculty, and independent researchers to mobile learning for teaching and learning


The purpose of this study was to gauge the level of receptiveness that practitioners of History have towards mobile learning in higher education. Seven individuals were interviewed regarding their attitudes and experiences with formal courses of study in History, their attitudes towards technology in historical practice, and their perceptions of mobile learning. All the participants were associated with formal courses of study in History in higher education in the United States and the United Kingdom. The interviews were subjected to a narrative analysis to gauge thematic tendencies. The narrative analysis indicated several thematic consistencies across the interviews, including a general receptiveness to mobile learning, the separation of teaching and research practice in History, the isolation embedded within the doctoral process in History, and the support mechanisms established to alleviate that isolation. Further of note were the pronounced ties to the discipline (History) and the generally weak ties to the institution (university). None of the participants expressed a distrust of using mobile technology for historical practices or a pronounced bias in the discipline against using mobile learning. The analysis suggests a general receptiveness to mobile learning at the individual level, but further research is needed to determine, based on the weak affinity with the institution, whether mobile learning is appropriate as an institutional offering.


Academically, I would like to thank Dr Sian Bayne, Senior Lecturer, Institute for Education, Community and Society, School of Education at the The University of Edinburgh for her unwavering, astute, and gracious assistance not only through the course of this dissertation but during my entire association with the University of Edinburgh. Towards this end, I would also like to thank Dr. Hamish Macleod, Senior Lecturer, Institute for Education, Community & Society,The Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh for his helpful guidance through both the dissertation proposal process as well as through navigating the particulars of higher education in the United Kingdom.

Professionally, I would like to thank Dr. Siro Masinde of the National Museums of Kenya and Mr. Rahim Rajan of the Gates Foundation for their unflagging enthusiasm and inspiration for my research and study. They encouraged me to pursue research that spoke to the growing discrepancies between the sciences and the arts as well as higher education in the developed and developing world. Without them, I fear this research would have taken on a drastically different approach.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Review of the Literature
  • Research Design and Methodology
  • Presentation of Findings
  • Discussion of Findings
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Appendices

Introduction: Why History?

“Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them.”-Leo Tolstoy

The practice of History in higher education has been altered in recent years with shifts of emphasis towards the sciences and applied disciplines. History departments make do with less at a time when technology increasingly contributes to the impact of historical research. The rise of digital humanities has invigorated in History interest in wedding technology to historical research (Schreibman et all, 2004). Mobility has emerged as a facet for historical productivity in both the historical practice of field research and history teaching itself. Mobile learning, the process of learning across both institutional and informal spaces, time, and context, all with technological mediation, presents opportunity for historical practice in higher education (Sharples, 2005). However, the impact of mobile learning and technology on the field of History will be greatly affected by the receptiveness of historians to what is made possible through mobile learning. Without a receptive audience within the discipline, mobile learning will have limited impact.

To properly assess any potential impact mobile learning might have on the practice of History in higher education, it is first necessary to establish the level of receptiveness that practitioners of History, whether students, faculty, or researchers, have towards mobile learning. Towards this end, this research posits the practitioners of History as active agents in the narratives of their relationship to and experience with mobile learning, their institution, and their profession. The level of receptiveness a given historian demonstrates to mobile learning in higher education will be greatly impacted, this research believes, by experience and perception. To evaluate this receptiveness, it is necessary to first consider the disciplinary practices of History, as well as pedagogical and mobile frameworks for evaluation.

Review of the Literature

A Review of the Literature for the receptiveness of faculty and students in History to mobile learning in higher education must involve disciplinary conceptions of learning, historians’ use of primary and secondary source materials, disciplinary identity and mobility and mobile learning. For the purposes of this research, the following fields will be considered, all directed towards the practice of History in higher education

  • Disciplinary structure of History: ontology, epistemology, and evidence
  • Learning and Instructional Frameworks
  • Mobility and Mobile Learning

Disciplinary structure of History: ontology, epistemology, and evidence

A considerable amount of research exists dedicated to understanding the particular learning needs, disciplinary structure, and conceptualization of potential teaching-learning environments in the field of History, much of which has directly influenced the structure of this research on the receptiveness of History to mobile learning in higher education.

One such example is the The ETL Project (Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses). The ETL Project’s Subject Overview Report: History has proven invaluable in identifying several of the key factors to query in regards to mobile learning in the discipline of History (Anderson, Day, 2005). This subject overview outlines various frameworks for the practice of History within higher education, including the nature of instruction in higher education. Specifically, what is it that students and faculty alike are intended to do? Anderson and Day point to Lee (2002), who claims that it is necessary to “equip students to understand the different kinds of claims we make about the past and the relation of these claims to the questions we ask and the evidence we adduce” (6). These claims we make to the past, the questions we ask, and the evidence we acquire represent the core ontological and epistemological structures that practitioners of History are beholden to. Much university level instruction in the field of History is specifically driven towards understanding historical knowledge claims, ontological questioning, and what constitutes appropriate sources of evidence; these foundations presumably would need to be mapped to any learning structure, mobile or otherwise.

In terms of what constitutes appropriate evidence for historical practice, primary sources possess much clout in the historical learning and research process; they are often the link from epistemological questioning to knowledge construction for both the individual and the historical record. While there is considerable research on the primary source information seeking habits of historians, the emphasis on this research is not the search for primary sources but rather what is to be done with them and other sources of evidence in terms of validating historical knowledge claims (Tibbo, 2002). Primary sources being used in conjunction with peer-reviewed research to validate knowledge claims is often the core practice that formal courses of study in History in higher education are attempting to bestow on their students. Primary sources and secondary research are used in this way for establishing validity. While secondary sources (peer-reviewed research) often have narrow perspectives, they do consult numerous primary sources in their creation and thus tend to be more reliable (Barton, 2005). The ability of a historian to oscillate between primary and secondary sources to establish validity, in this case validation of the historical knowledge claim, is a skill required by the profession.

Anderson and Day articulate the importance of making sure presented evidence is “consistent with what else is known historically about the issue under study. In other words, coherence of the available information is a critical aspect of historical explanation” (Anderson, Day, 2005, 7). Coherence in the presentation of evidence becomes a pedagogical concern, how those practicing History learn to construct and represent knowledge. The ability to coherently present evidence falls to both the practicing historian and the learning environments in which they conduct their work. In keeping with Day and Anderson’s suggestions, university learning environments, including formal mobile learning structures, should be viewed as a set of artifacts and processes, dynamic interactions between cultural and technical tools, disciplinary etiquette and practices, and prior experiences. These all, when coupled with the core historical process of validating historical knowledge claims, create a context for learning in the field of History in higher education (Anderson, Day, 2005, 7).

Further research that validates Anderson and Day’s overview of History for historical practice comes from Ithaka S+R, which has produced a report on the practice of History in higher education in the United States outlining the importance of context, dialogue, and sources consulted in validating historical knowledge claims (Griffiths et al, 2006).

Historians emphasize the need to fully understand the context of an argument, where it sits in an ongoing scholarly dialogue, and the primary materials upon which it draws. Historians’ discovery process therefore tends to be wider-ranging and to cover lesser-known sources; they aspire to discover untapped sets of data or primary materials upon which to base their analyses (Griffiths et al, 2006, 3).
All this discovery and interaction with content, dialogue, and sources would need to be reflected in mobile learning developed for the practice of History in higher education. For the purposes of this research, it is believed that general receptiveness will hinge on the historian’s belief that mobile learning is capable of accounting for these processes, discovery mechanisms, and need for diverse content.

A further wrinkle in the practice of History in higher education is in the hierarchy of published research, research that is linked to professional advancement within the profession. Ithaka S+R has pointed to the perception of the importance of the monograph and its position as the most respected form of scholarly output in History, one that directly affects job prospects for historians (Griffiths et al, 2006, 5). Hence, much focus in both learning and research in History in higher education is directed towards the eventual production of such monographs; the ability to manufacture such long-form research is considered a prerequisite for the profession. This is reflected in instructional practices in History departments which emphasize long-form essays as appropriate assessment focus.

Hounsell (1997, 2000) articulates this emphasis on long-form research construction as appropriate academic discourse. This is manifest in History programs where great emphasis is placed on essay writing as “argument, as viewpoint, as arrangement” (Hounsell, 1997).
Essay writing represents a valid and valued skill for History in terms of its stress on coherence and interpretation. Further, it stands as a measure of the potential marketable worth of the individual academic. Receptiveness towards mobile learning would be affected, this research believes, by its ability to satisfy the need for long-form research construction for both practicing historians (faculty writing manuscripts) and fledgling ones (students constructing essays for course requirements).
Learning and Instructional Frameworks

Beyond learning and research outputs (essays & monographs), pedagogically it will be critical to explore History as a delineated discipline with established context and identity. Critical to this exploration in History is the notion of self-perception, identity and collaborative practices. In regards to self-perception, the ETL Project offers valuable insight.  Enwistle, referring to research done by Becher and Trowler, states that “History is described as being soft, pure, convergent and rural” (2005, 4). History is, to quote Becher, an “academic tribe” which has “different knowledge territories”, in this case territories that are soft, convergent, and rural. Further, that in these knowledge territories fundamentally different questions are asked, and “arguments are generated, developed, expressed and reported” in different ways (2005, 23). Much of how these arguments are expressed and reported has been discussed in terms of research and instructional outputs (ie, monographs and essays). Beyond dictating the forms of output, evidence of these academic tribal affiliations on disciplinary identity was evident throughout the research. These academic tribes offered a cultural context for expected work and behavior as well as social support.

Enwistle stresses the “rural” aspect of History in that “there is much more room for personal interpretation of evidence”, a situation where “personal viewpoints are encouraged, as long as they are well-supported” (2005, 8). This personal interpretation is reinforced by the final stages of academic apprenticeship, the doctoral work in keeping with the requirements for a PhD, often a solitary pursuit of independent research conducted in coordination with a mentor (an established historian).

Much instructional pedagogy in History in higher education is constructivist in nature.
Constructivist frameworks of instruction stress the role of context and social negotiation of knowledge in instruction (Savery, Duffy, 1996). History establishes context through its pursuit of knowledge claims, their validation, and the manner of practices associated with this process. The social negotiation of knowledge is established through the apprenticeship model in higher education, namely the pairing of a student (apprenticing historian) with a mentor (practicing historian). Mobile learning’s affordance for this context and social negotiation will be analyzed to determine its applicability to the practice of History in higher education.

Building on this constructivist pedagogy, the work of Meyer and Land in regards to threshold concepts offers considerable insight into the practice of History in higher education (2005). Meyer and Land’s analysis of the role of ‘thresholds’ in developing “pedagogically fertile” and role-defining shifts in learner’s understanding of their place as active members of the discipline has great application for History as the vehicle for disciplinary understanding (Meyer, Land, 374). All of the participants in this research are active members of the History discipline, at varying stages of development (student vs. faculty, university vs. research organization) and at varying degrees of affiliation with their institution and their profession.

Constructivism in History in higher education is also realized in the evolving nature of student participation in the historical process. According to Enwistle, “students were being encouraged to express their own views in discussion and feel part of a joint enterprise that allowed them to believe that their views and interpretations had value as they began to think ‘like a historian’.” (2005, 8) This self-perception of thinking “like a historian” has value pedagogically as an instrument that motivates participation and collaboration (Enwistle, 2005, 8). The experience of ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ in the work of the professional historian” is constructivist in nature, emphasizing as it does collaborative knowledge construction; it further is identity forming by establishing etiquette for “communicating ideas in academically acceptable forms of expression and argument” (2005, 8). Students are taught to act, argue, participate, and express themselves as historians. The pedagogical importance placed on disciplinary participatory identity in History emphasizes the importance of establishing the level of receptiveness to mobile learning on a disciplinary level. With so much emphasis placed on identity as a historian, viewing their receptiveness to mobile learning as partly influenced by disciplinary norms is prudent.

A facet of learning in History in higher education is the general lack of abstraction that might pose conceptual hurdles for students; however, this lack of abstraction is counteracted by the contested nature of historical knowledge, a general level of uncertainty over what is historically valid (Enwistle, 2005, 8). Since students have often not experienced this type of uncertainty academically, the ability of History in higher education to elicit the viewpoint of History as a “wider social and temporal context” is valued. Threshold events are incorporated into the very pedagogy of History itself by encouraging students to view historical knowledge as temporal, socially constructed, and often disputed. Enwistle, in establishing the necessity of accepting relativism in historical knowledge construction, refers again to the process of historical knowing which involves a layering “in which students were helped to add new layers of their current understanding of a topic over time” towards a “greater maturity of judgment” (2005, 8).

Also present pedagogically is an attempt to avoid the historical fallacy of presentism. Presentism is the fallacy of interpreting past events and context through present day structures and filters (Hackett Fisher, 1970, 135). By encouraging students to avoid presentism, to indeed view all historical knowledge as temporal, social, and not entirely causal, the conditions for obtaining threshold knowledge are contextually introduced. This mirrors the case study presented by Macdonald and Black (2010) in their discussion of distance learning for an undergraduate course in medieval European History at Open University at the UK. According to Macdonald and Black, great emphasis was placed on instructing students on “resisting a ‘present-minded’ perspective”, or presentism, in historical practice (2010, 77). This threshold event of identifying and avoiding presentism can be seen as a barometer of students’ progression in the practice of and identification with History (Enwistle, 2005, 8).

Further echoing Anderson and Day’s work (2005) on suitable sources for historical investigation is the notion that studying “History at university has less to do with assimilating information than with engaging with historical problems and scholarly perspectives based on a range of evidence” (Macdonald, Black, 2010, 78). Engaging with these historical problems based on a range of evidence is effectively one of the “big moments” of an apprenticing historian’s relation to the discipline (2010, 71). If and when the apprenticing historian embraces the contested nature of historical knowledge, the avoidance of presentism and the historical practice of engaging with historical problems through a range of evidence, or, to put it differently, passes through the threshold, there is evidence of transformative change consistent with threshold concepts (Meyer, Land, 2005). The apprenticing historian learns the practices and pitfalls of historical knowledge construction and further identifies with the discipline itself as a practicing historian.

Fittingly, Ray Land, Jan H.F. Meyer, and Caroline Baillie provide a concise summation of History as a series of learning thresholds:

“The range of learning thresholds identified with the discipline indicates how the conceptual and ontological are inextricably linked, and includes, to take a sample, developing and evaluating historical arguments, recreating historical context, maintaining emotional distance, overcoming affective roadblocks, willingness to wait for an answer, dealing with ambiguity, seeing artefacts from the past as representing choices that change over time, identifying with people in another time/place, understanding historical change, reading critically, writing historically, using appropriate language, and understanding notions of time” (Land et al, 2010, xxx).

The perceived ability of mobile learning to supplement or replicate these historical learning thresholds, this research believes, is critical to the success of mobile learning to the discipline.
Mobility and Mobile Learning

“Towards a Theory of Mobile Learning” provides a useful mediation between learning and technology and will be used to analyze mobile learning for History (Sharples, 2005). Sharples builds on the work of Pask (Conversation Theory) and Engestrom (expansive activity model) by establishing the technological layer of mobile learning, which represents learning as an engagement with technology, “in which tools such as computers and mobile phones function as interactive agents in the process of coming to know, creating a human-technology system to communicate, to mediate agreements between learners and to aid recall and reflection” (Sharples, 2005, 7). The ability of mobile learning to facilitate understanding, mediate knowledge, and aid in reflection constitutes an intersect between mobile as technology and History as a community of practice.

Further, the work of Sharples, Taylor, and Vavoula offers insight into an evaluation of any potential mobile learning solution for expert level systems in these fields, an additional framework that can be applied to this research (2007). This work posits mobile learning in terms of its affordance for mobility, its identification of learning as a constructive and social process, and the role of situated activity mediated by technology (Sharples, Taylor, Vavoula, 2007, 225). Any potential mobile learning solution derived from this research into History will be gauged based on its ability to satisfy these facets of mobile learning. Sharples’ work will be used as an instrument to determine whether mobile learning for History creates control (both the community of learners and their association with higher education), context (in terms of the learning activities and objects) and communication (in mobile learning’s ability to allow for communication both within the learning community and the ability to disseminate communication to the greater academic community).

Adjacent to this analysis of context in mobile learning will be activity theory, the mediation of knowledge through tools, technology, and language. Mobile learning is especially suited to activity theory due to its focus on context and that learning objectives can be met through multiple contextual structures (Wali, Winters, Oliver, 2008, 46). Mobile learning demands flexibility in contextual approach, a flexibility well suited to activity theory. The potential of mobile learning applications to support learning in History will be examined in keeping with these pedagogical and technological frameworks. These frameworks for evaluating mobile learning will be specifically targeted towards their view of mobility itself as an active agent in constructing knowledge, as well as to their ability to satisfy the disciplinary processes of learning and knowledge construction in History in higher education.

Research Design and Methodology

The purpose of this study was to gauge receptiveness in the field of History to mobile learning in higher education. The core question that this research attempts to answer is are students, faculty, and researchers (independent or institutionally associated) in the discipline of History receptive to mobile learning solutions to meet their research and learning needs?

This research does not presuppose a particular a level of receptiveness to mobile learning, but rather attempts to gauge that receptiveness based on the individual transcripts and subsequent narrative analysis (Robson, 2002, 493). Qualitative data has been gathered from interviews with select practitioners in History in higher education-students, faculty, and independent researchers. The qualitative data is then subjected to a narrative analysis to gauge the general level of receptiveness to mobile learning and potentially identify any influencing factors in that level of receptiveness.

Interview Construction

The research interview was constructed specifically to allow the participants to guide the discussion and to compose narratives of meaning based on experiences with technology and their association with the larger field of History. Interviews in this context are viewed as speech activities where meaning emerges from within the interaction of interviewer and participant (Gumperz, 1982). A less rigid interview format was deemed necessary to elicit emotional context, a context that would help establish receptiveness. A more rigid approach would construct speech events of a reflexive nature; Mishler points out that rigid question construction dictates “acceptable” responses (1986, 49). “Respondents, for their part, learned during the interview how to answer adequately, but briefly” (1986, 49). Receptiveness, this researcher believes, is heavily influenced by context, a context that can only be naturally broached through open-ended questions and a relinquishing of authoritative control on the part of the interviewer.

Narrative analysis was determined to be a suitable framework for both the interview construction and the subsequent analysis for gauging receptiveness to mobile learning in the field of History precisely because it is an attempt to follow the participants “down their trails”, to give participants an authentic voice in dictating their own receptiveness to mobile learning (Riessman, 2008, 24).  This authenticity helps elicit the autobiographical-self, how the participant wants to position themselves in terms of the dialogue; this autobiographical self, it is hoped, will reveal their position in regards to their institution, their discipline, and technology (2008, 29). To establish the interview as a context for projecting an autobiographical self, an authentic voice, it is necessary to empower participants to tell their stories; empowered participants produce narrative accounts (Mishler, 1986, 110). Empowerment on the part of the participant requires a readjustment of the balance of power between interviewer and participant.

Narrative analysis requires the relinquishing of some measure of control on the part of the interviewer towards greater equality between interviewer and participant; this leveling of authority has been reflected in the interview construction for this research. Although specific data points have been identified, the overall structure is entirely dependent on the narrative of the participant; questions are open-ended, flexible in terms of sequence, and participant driven in terms of “acceptable” answers. The interview schedule includes an introduction that specifically states that all answers are appropriate, the participant is explicitly encouraged to speak to whatever length suits them, and several probes have been identified for eliciting further narrative construction. These probes are designed with the understanding that the actual wording of the questions aren’t as important as the level of receptiveness and emotional attentiveness shown by the interviewer (Riessman, 2008, 24).

Further to this attentiveness during the course of the interview, there was extensive communication with each of the participants prior to the actual interview. This prior communication established measures of trust, receptiveness, and general collegiality conducive to the narrative approach. Further, these email exchanges established general expectations, a necessary dependency for narrative construction (Riessman, 2008, 25). Participants knew what to expect in terms of topics (mobile, History, higher education), structure (open-ended questions, receptiveness), venue (Skype), and length (approximately 60 minutes).

A flexible approach was specifically crafted by the research subject of gauging receptiveness; an attempt was made to shift the interview from a behavioral event of stimulus/response to one of mutual interaction between the interviewer and the participant. In this shift, both the interviewer and the participant are “active participants who jointly construct narrative and meaning” (Riessman, 2008, 23). The interview structure was designed to account for this interaction by stressing context in meaning, if not form (rigid question and answer structure).

The interview schedule was constructed to avoid technologically deterministic definitions of mobile learning. This stance was influenced by Sharples, Taylor, and Vavoula’s work positing mobile learning in terms of its affordance of mobility, its view of learning as a social process, and the role of situated activity mediated by technology (2007, 225). Mobility, in this focus, is not limited to a particular technology, but rather incorporates any technology that satisfies conditions of mobility, sociability, and situatedness. Therefore, mobile learning is never defined through the course of the interview schedule, except on request from the participant in either the interview itself or the pre-interview communication. Participant responses to mobile learning questions are respected in the interview structure in an attempt to honor “individual agency and intention” and to elicit context that can be analyzed to gauge receptiveness. In short, the participant’s view of mobile learning is viewed as accurate as it is an authentic response (Riessman, 2008, 12).

Appendix 2: Interview Schedule

Interviewer: Michael Sean Gallagher
Topic: Mobile Learning and History in Higher Education
  • Can you tell me about yourself?
    • What is your academic and professional background?
    • What drew you to History?
  • This is just a hypothetical, but imagine that the physical institution you were associated with was inaccessible (physically) due to relocation, natural occurrence, or what have you and you were left with your mobile technology to interact with the institution.
    • What would you be able to do on mobile devices that you normally do at your physical institution? What would you not be able to do on your mobile devices that you normally do? Would anything be disrupted?
  • Do you use mobile technology?
    • Do you own a mobile device? How often do you use it?
    • Could you live without it?
    • Do you ever do any work on it for History? consult notes, look up reference sources, listen to lectures, read e-books?
    • Do you consider yourself technically savvy? How would you describe yourself?
  • How do you feel about mobile learning in History? The purpose of these questions is to try and get a sense of your general level of receptiveness towards mobile learning, barriers, and other factors that might restrict or enable its use.
    • Do you have any general feelings towards using mobile learning in History?
    • How would your colleagues feel about mobile learning?

Sites and Participants
Seven individuals associated with History (faculty, PhD students, and independent researchers) were interviewed to gauge their receptiveness to mobile learning in higher education. The seven participants were selected based on criteria including:

  • Formal participation in a degree granting institution in the field of History (formal education)
  • Professional or research experience in the field of History (Historical research or content development)

There were no technological selection criteria (familiarity with technology) for interview participants as the interview was attempting to gauge merely a level of receptiveness to mobile learning in History in higher education rather than a working knowledge of it. In the email exchanges identifying potential participants, many expressed a general interest in using technology for research and teaching. However, none self-identified as technically savvy.

The participants were drawn from a wide variety of institutions, including large research universities in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as several independent organizations involved in historical research (museums, non-profit organization). The participants themselves were drawn from a range of roles, including faculty and doctoral students; the majority of the participants were doctoral students and therefore represent the perspectives of apprentices in the process of becoming practicing members of the profession. All reported an  identification with the discipline of History and its practice in higher education; all had conducted research commensurate with graduate level study. To retain confidentiality, the names of the individual and their institutions have been replaced with pseudonyms as listed in Appendix 3.

Mobile Design

Appendix 3: Demographics of Interview Participants

Name Institution(s) Type of institution Research Position Number of total exchanges prior to interview
Tia Manhattan University Large Research University Diaspora Studies; West African History PhD Student >10
Roger Swaffham University Large Research University/Research Organization Islamic Intellectual History; History of Philosophy Graduate Student/
Independent Researcher
Sarah University of Western California Large Research University Diplomatic History; Foreign Relations Professor >5
Betty University of the Midwest Large Research University History of Science; Colonial History PhD Student >3
Franka University of the Northeast/ Oral Narrative Museum Museum/Research Organization Genocide Studies; Holocaust Studies Researcher/
PhD Student
Rory University of the Northeast/
Oral Narrative Museum
Museum/Research Organization Genocide Studies; Holocaust Studies Researcher/
PhD Student
Helmut State University of Upper New York Large Research University African History: Lusophone Africa Liberation Movements Professor/
PhD Student

To overcome geographical restraints, all interviews were conducted online via Skype and instant messaging. The majority of these interviews were conducted through a text-based discussion, while several were conducted orally. The oral interviews were recorded and transcribed with the express permission of the participant. The text-based interviews were saved as text documents with the express consent of the participant. All interview participants were told that their identity would remain confidential and that the collected data and subsequent analysis would be used strictly for research purposes. In keeping with the Ethical Research Guidelines of the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), the interview participants were fully informed about “the purpose, methods, and intended possible uses of the research” (2010, 3). All attempts were made to be transparent with the purposes of the research and not to be deceptive in any fashion.

Data Collection
Each interview lasted a minimum of 40 minutes with the longest lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes. The varying lengths of time required for each interview reflective the open structure of the interview where participants were encouraged to relay their story in ways that made sense to them; however, this also indicates variation across the interviews in terms of response length and sequence. Mishler refers to these variations among interviews not as “errors but as significant data for analysis” (1986, 44). These variations illustrate the unique context in which the joint construction of meaning between interviewer and participant took place.

Additional “significant data” are the prior exchanges between interviewer and responder (Mishler, 1986, 45). In some cases, there was considerable communication prior to the actual interview which created extended familiarity between the interviewer and the responder. This familiarity is considered an additional data collection point for potential analysis (see Appendix 2). It is believed familiarity contributes to the overall establishment of context unique to the participant, this complex interaction between events, human relationships, and other factors (Cohen et al, 2000, 181). It also establishes the interviewer’s receptiveness to establishing participant empowerment, a core facet of narrative construction.

Data Analysis
The individual transcripts form the basis of the narrative analysis. A thematic analysis was applied to these transcripts to determine the nature of the “told” elements of the emerging narrative rather than how these narratives were told in terms of analysis of structures of speech (Riessman, 2008, 54). Some attention was drawn to the local context that produces the narrative itself, but the majority of focus was placed on how the narrative posits the participants in relation to the topics of institution, discipline, and technology. It is believed that these relationships (more specifically, the level of comfort or satisfaction the participant exhibits towards these relationships) are critical in establishing receptiveness to mobile learning; narrative analysis addresses these relationships by using the narrative as vehicle for understanding identity development (Mishler, 1986).

Building on the views of Mishler and Riessman of viewing interviews as speech events and stories, each of the individual interviews will be treated as highly personal narrative constructions. This is in keeping with Mishler’s assertion that “one of the most significant ways in which individuals make sense of and give meaning to their experiences is to organize them in narrative form” (1986, 110). The interviews attempted to determine the experience of the participants with technology, their institutions, and their chosen discipline. Further, these narratives were analyzed in their achievement of being

  • referential to the interaction with the interviewer
  • evaluative of the experience of the participant in regards to their relationships with technology, institution, and discipline (Labov, Waletzky, 2003, 75).

Referential in this context refers to the view of the interview itself as an interactive event. While the core focus of the analysis is thematic, some attention will be spent on the referential nature of the constructed narrative towards the questions and prompts of the interviewer.  This will be to determine to what degree the interviewer dictated the construction of the narrative with questions and prompts; in effect, a review of the interviewer’s performance in stimulating the participant’s narrative is necessary to measure claims drawn from the narrative analysis.

Presentation of Findings
The seven interview transcripts were subjected to a thematic narrative analysis to identify generative constructions of meaning. These constructions assist in identifying general measures of receptiveness to mobile learning in History in higher education. After presenting the narrative accounts for each of the seven conducted interviews, a further Discussion of Findings will discuss general conclusions based on the research and thematic consistencies of narrative construction.

Participant 1: Tia
Tia is a doctoral student in History at Manhattan University on the verge of completing her doctoral dissertation. Tia has a working relationship with the author from various projects working on Africa cultural heritage and historical digital materials, so there existed a certain degree of trust prior to the actual interview. This trust, the author believes, had some influence on the pace and tone of the interview itself. The narrative that Tia constructed was one a non-linear career path and a general dissatisfaction with the doctoral process itself, the combination of which seemed to have little influence on her receptiveness towards technology and mobile learning. Tia positioned her entry into the discipline in terms of chance, as made evident in the following passage:

Transcript 1.1

Tia: Why History?
Michael Sean Gallagher: Sure, why?
Tia: That’s a loaded question for me…
Tia: To be honest, I didn’t really think about it too much.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Makes sense to me. That is the way I do things.
Tia: lol.
Tia: The circumstances of starting grad school for me were quite twisted. I’m still sorting it out. I actually intended to get an art degree and be a high school teacher.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Really?
Michael Sean Gallagher: I didn’t know that
Tia: yup
[2:09:07 PM] Michael Sean Gallagher: Wow. So would you do it again if given the chance (the chance to go through to a PhD)?
Tia: nope
Tia: i might get a masters, but don’t think I’d go through the trouble of a PhD.
Tia: The process was not cut out for me.

Tia’s doctoral experience in History is presented in the negative (“process was not cut out for me”, “circumstances of starting grad school for me were quite twisted”), suggesting a limited affinity for both the discipline and the home institution. She is not firmly embedded in the discipline, not firmly convinced or greatly dissatisfied with her role in the larger community.

When presented with a hypothetical question regarding a lack of access to the physical university (a question asked of all participants), Tia presented little evidence that her research and learning would be greatly disrupted, aside from access to physical (non-digitized) materials. Of interest to the larger theme of mobile learning, Tia established her lack of use of the media labs since she completed her teaching duties. As a doctoral student focused exclusively on research, her lack of use of materials provided by the university is revealing, both as an indication of her remote connection to the university itself and subsequently the impact of any potential mobile learning initiative offered at the university level.

Striking a theme found in most of the interviews, Tia establishes the geographical and emotional isolation from the larger institution and discipline. Tia meets with her advisor “when he’s in the country” or “mostly online”, visits campus to “physically check out books”, but there is little indication of a further engagement with the university.

Transcript 1.2

Michael Sean Gallagher: So imagine Manhattan University, the physical campus, was inaccessible (physically) due to relocation, natural occurrence, or what have you and you were left with your mobile technology to interact with the institution. Is there anything that you need to do that you wouldn’t be able to do with a mobile device, however you define mobile?
Tia: yes, physically check out books.
Michael Sean Gallagher: gotcha
Tia: i wouldn’t be able to physically check out books, and I wouldn’t have access to their media labs
Michael Sean Gallagher: What do you normally do in the media labs?
Tia: I use them for films, but come to think of it, I only used them when I was teaching. I haven’t used it for my research.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Interesting..that is a good distinction, though. Used for teaching, but not research?
Tia: yes.
Michael Sean Gallagher: But for research you need to check out books physically at the library?
Tia: yes. and I also get interlibrary loan materials (books or microfilm through the library). every once in a while i have to use microfilm, and i use the library to read the microfilm.
Tia: there are many books i use that are not yet digitized.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Makes perfect sense to me
Tia: some of them live offsite because they are old and rarely used.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Archival type materials?
Michael Sean Gallagher: Primary sources?
Tia: no, just old books, or non-mainstream books.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Gotcha
Michael Sean Gallagher: How often do you meet at Manhattan University? As in with a supervisor or staff or is that generally on the phone or online?
Tia: these days, i’m mostly online with my advisor. i go in occasionally to meet with the department administrator, or my advisor, when he’s in the country.
Michael Sean Gallagher: I see.

The above passage presented Tia’s engagement with the university as an infrequent phenomena, yet embedded that engagement within the accepted historical process of research. Tia’s reliance on primary source materials, archival materials, books, and other resources is consistent with the historical practice of consulting a range of resources  (Anderson and Day, 2005; Enwistle, 2005).

In the following passage regarding mobile and her role as a historian, Tia returns to an overall theme of isolation. By placing emphasis on the conversations and the in-person elements of her previous academic experience, Tia is drawing attention, by contrast, to her present role as an independent/isolated researcher. For Tia, the social elements of learning in History, now missing, are important. Ultimately, social interaction would need to be accounted for in mobile learning for Tia as it enhances the learning process; by drawing a distinction between learning (classroom) and research (doctoral dissertation), Tia further implies that a greater social interaction would be be welcome in her doctoral research.

Transcript 1.3

Michael Sean Gallagher: What about your role as a historian? What if Manhattan University switched a lot of their course requirements or PhD requirements to an online or strictly mobile setting? Would there be any resistance from your colleagues or faculty?
Tia: i think so. i think it makes a difference to interact with faculty in the classroom. the conversations are important.
Tia: interacting with the material might be enhanced, but i think in-person conversations are still vital to learning.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Makes sense to me. So you would feel the lack of the interpersonal conversations and interactions?
Tia: i do now…
Tia: but the dissertation is a lonely path.

This “lonely path” of doctoral research is a theme reiterated by the vast majority of the participants. In summation, Tia presents an interesting narrative of technological acceptance (as a resourceful researcher, she welcomes efficient uses of technology) coupled with institutional ambivalence, limited disciplinary affinity, and isolation.

Participant 2: Roger

Roger works for a digital non-profit that serves the higher education community. He has a working relationship with the author towards several initiatives on African History. Roger has an academic background in History at a prestigious university in the United Kingdom (Swaffham University) as well as experience with several projects working with historians from disparate geographical locations. Roger introduces and embraces the importance of field research in History, a theme generally reiterated by the participants; this field research has positively influenced Roger towards the benefits of mobile technology for research purposes.

Roger is also what could be described as a global nomad, having been raised in Rwanda, relocated to the United Kingdom, Canada, and now the United States; in short, geographical mobility is part of his ethos. Perhaps not surprisingly, Roger presents a generally enthusiastic tone in regards to mobile learning and technology in general towards the practices of History in higher education. In fact, Roger was the only participant that had a working definition of mobile prepared.

Transcript 2.1

Roger: I think mobile speaks to me in two ways.  It means first that I can access information/data/knowledge without being constrained to sitting at a desk or being physically in a certain building (i.e., at the university, or office).  So mobile means that irrespective of where I am, I am “connected” to this invisible ocean of information that exists.  The second way mobile speaks to me is that as a researcher or scholars (or as a historian), I am able to record observations, notes, photographs, information, and send it to the cloud for later analysis.  In other words, if I’m out in the field consulting an archive or library, mobile means that I can aggregate information that I’m collecting or annotating and record those observations (via a mobile device) and access these later.  I think we’re still in early stages of harnessing mobile devices in scholarly research but there are some excellent examples of what I’m talking about.
Roger: For example, there is a group of research scientists in Turkana region of Kenya that are using handheld devices (they are paleontologists) to record the locations/details of fossils on a map.  Scientists upload this data to the web using their hand held devices and then analyze this data later in the lab.
Roger: The specificity that they are able to document (in terms of location and details) is so accurate that it has simply transformed their scientific knowledge of that region.
Roger: You can imagine historians interacting with data/information in very similar ways in the future…

In this exchange, Roger demonstrates both a working definition of mobility and applied examples of how it might be used in History; the specificity of these examples indicates perhaps both a professional need for mobile learning as well as what mobility might provide historians. Roger primarily works with historians in developing African nations and can see great potential for mobility in these environments; Roger has experience in which the lack of wired bandwidth adversely affected the outcome of particular initiatives. Further, perhaps owing to his role in content development for historical resources, Roger stresses the role of primary sources, secondary sources, monographs and how these can be used effectively via mobile applications. This need effectively reiterate many of the historical practices as introduced by Anderson & Day (2005), and Enwistle (2005) in the ETL Project.

Roger not only sees very little disruption of existing historical practice with the use of mobile technology, but rather sees great potential in their use. Roger presents an enthusiastic narrative about the transformative properties of mobile learning. However, Roger stresses the need for a community-driven approach to mobile learning in terms of tools and resources, further speaking to the monograph as research output and measure of marketability (Griffiths et al, 2006).

Transcript 2.2

Roger: We are definitely lacking a scholarly driven approach to building tools – that is missing.  The commercial sector is not going to build such tools (because the margins are so low and the market is small) but there are great opportunities here for scientists, programmers, and academics to collaborate and build research driven tools and applications for students and researchers.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Wow. Many thanks for that. That seems like an important distinction. So you would agree that these tools need to be developed within the community?
Roger: The current race to launch more integrated ebook offerings by a variety of scholarly publishers and non-profits is a key sign that this landscape is changing very quickly.  What will research look like once the scholarly monograph is largely an online construct and journal literature is also created and archived online?
Michael Sean Gallagher: Good point. A case of the technology changing the content itself?
Roger: I believe that the tools that succeed and attract the largest academic audiences will have to be developed with the involvement of scholars and students.
Michael Sean Gallagher: Good point.
Roger: Yes, absolutely.  I think we will begin to see a blurring between the scholarly journal and monograph.  All of this of course is also going to eventually transform higher education in other ways.  What will it mean to produce a doctoral dissertation in such a world?  If multimedia scholarship and online data sets become the sine qua non of academic publishing – how is this going to alter the type of research and scholarship that graduate students produce?

Roger presents a narrative of enthusiastic adoption of mobile learning, of primary and secondary source access, and the related transformative effects on scholarly output in History. Roger was unique amongst the participants in several ways, including his enthusiasm for mobile learning, his articulation of the impact of mobile on accepted historical research practices, and his extensive professional experience outside higher education. Roger’s narrative was also revealing in his affinity for technology and its transformative effects on historical practice in higher education. Roger’s tribal allegiances, harkening to Becher and Trowler (2001), might rest outside disciplinary structures.

Participant 3: Sarah

Sarah is an Assistant Professor of History at a large Californian research and teaching university, The University of Western California. Sarah has both teaching and research duties at the University of Western California and expressed a keen interest in using mobile and other technologies to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Sarah iterated several points common in the vast majority of the interviews, namely the isolation of doctoral work and the field research she conducted for her research. Generally, Sarah skews more towards the positive in her assessment of her relationship to the profession and the institution. Sarah establishes from the onset that her interests in mobile learning and instructional technology intersect with her professional historical research and teaching duties, or at least is inquisitive how they might serve those duties. Sarah expands on this intersect more and further demonstrates agency and even an active crafting of her narrative in her relationship to the overall profession, her institution, and technology itself.

In the following passage, Sarah crafts her narrative to establish a continuum of experience, a coherence of activity leading to her present professional self. In this narrative, Sarah crafts strong connections between her use of technology from an early stage, her exposure to (and embrace of) progressive teaching methods, and even elements of the field research experience encountered by most of the participants.
Transcript 3.1

Sarah:  and it’s really needed in the humanities.Sarah:  good question.  i majored in History at Smith so i guess that was my first experience with it academically.but i really was a history nerd in high school.  had fantastic teachers who got me working with primary documents early on.Michael Sean Gallagher:  Ha! Fantastic. Interesting about primary documents in secondary school. Fairly progressive teaching, it seems?Sarah:  definitely.

we were at Boston public library looking at microfilm my freshman year.

it was so fun.

Sarah:  we’d go and just take it all in and do our high school homework.

Michael Sean Gallagher:  fantastic…well ingrained in the research process from early on, I think?

Sarah: definitely

elearning mlearning

Sarah further establishes a narrative of experimentation in the following passage addressing her teaching responsibilities, experimentation encouraged but not explicitly mandated by her institution. Of note in this passage is Sarah’s affinity for the process of teaching History (as opposed to researching it); this affinity presents an interesting tribal allegiance to a subsection (teaching) of the larger discipline (History).
Transcript 3.2

Michael Sean Gallagher:  so, Sarah when you were working on your PhD and even now extending into your new assignment, did you have any teaching responsibilities?Sarah:  yes for both.At University of New Jersey, I TA-ed and taught my own classes.  At Western California, I am an assistant professor of History.Michael Sean Gallagher:  So at University of New Jersey and to your knowledge at Western California, are there any mandates regarding technology use in and out of the classroom? Anything you aware of?Sarah:  I don’t know about mandates, but at Western California all the classrooms are smart classrooms and I know that it was important for them the I used technology in the classroom.

i definitely use PowerPoint for images, film clips, art images.

but also google earth.

Michael Sean Gallagher:  Google Earth as presentation tool?

Sarah:  yes.  that’s really helpful when teaching global History so that people can see trade routes etc.

Michael Sean Gallagher:  Absolutely, Sarah. Certainly helps contextualize the discussion for students

Sarah:  definitely

Michael Sean Gallagher:  Aside from your teaching, how often would you actually be on campus at University of New Jersey? Was it a daily occurrence?

Sarah:  this site is really good:

at University of New Jersey, i was only there twice a week at best.

at most i mean.

The preceding passage establishes Sarah professionally as an invested teacher, one willing to experiment with technology to meet the learning needs of her students. When the subject switched to her research responsibilities, Sarah’s narrative reiterated many of the same themes presented by the other participants, that of a solitary research process with minimal association with the larger association. This solitude is presented in contrast to her instructional role (“the camaraderie would be important in teaching”), indicating a schism of sorts between her roles within the field of History.
Transcript 3.3

Michael Sean Gallagher:  So imagine a theoretical here for a second…suppose your association with University of New Jersey or Western California was research based..would there be anything you wouldn’t be able to do if the physical university would be shut down? even temporarilySarah:  the only thing i can think of would involve accessing online databases that i get to through the university and also not having access to library services would be hard (texts) but i also think i could work around it to a degree.Sarah:  i think it would most my environmental–a dedicated place to study.i’m a big library user.Sarah:  i think the physical aspects are less important.

especially in History, which is really a solitary genre.

i think that might change some now that i’m going to be at Western California.

in that sense, the camaraderie would be important in teaching.

i think.

Michael Sean Gallagher:  I wanted to ask that as well. Thanks for that. Basically if you found History to be solitary, independent activity

Sarah:  but again, being a grad student is a pretty lonely business. Also, University of New Jersey really wasn’t good at bringing students together after they were done with classes.

Sarah establishes the solitary nature of doctoral research (“solitary genre”, “pretty lonely business”), even implicating to some degree her institution in that isolation (“University of New Jersey really wasn’t good at bringing students together after they were done with classes”). In the following passage when presented with a probe about the collaborative nature of the discipline in general, Sarah presents a narrative that stresses the interaction and cohesion of the subdiscipline, in this case Lusophone African History (“these connections have been priceless”), indicating a certain level of tribal affiliation consistent with Becher (2001).
Sarah also introduces a theme reiterated by several of the participants of the social cohesion of the academic tribes (subdisciplines) in which they participate. She mentions social elements that have proven sustaining (contacts across universities “who I have never met in person”), further contrasting  the lack or limited affinity to her doctoral institution (the University of New Jersey).
Transcript 3.4

Sarah:  i do.  it really is a discipline that comes down to the individualHOWEVER,Michael Sean Gallagher:  what about History as collaborative process? Not just for socializing, but for collaborative work?Sarah:  the lusophone Africa world is extremely closeno not at all

just thought of an exception.

and it’s totally done via email.

Sarah:  i have contacts with people at universities who helped me with connections/information etc who i have never met in person.

those connections have been priceless.

Michael Sean Gallagher:  I see, that makes sense. So would it be safe to say your connections to your subdiscipline were more sustaining than your collegial connections (at University of New Jersey)?

Not sure if that question is phrased right

Sarah:  couldn’t have said it better myself!

but i might be different than other people.  i was a bit of an odd ball at University of New Jersey.

The assertiveness and experience that Sarah demonstrated in her narrative towards

technology and her role as historical researcher/teacher prompted the author to ask more

pointed questions regarding scenarios explicitly involving mobile learning. Sarah, confident

in her self-assessment, indicates willingness to use mobile learning and technologies “but

would also need help thinking about how to use them effectively”.  Sarah’s narrative in

regards to teaching continues to stress the collaborative, constructivist aspects of historical

learning (“spur discussion and analysis”), as well as a pragmatic, non-disruptive approach to

Transcript 3.5

Michael Sean Gallagher:  So could you imagine a scenario where you would use “mobile” technology for your work or in your teaching? In this instance, I am referring specifically to phones and tablets (iPads). Could you imagine those being useful?Sarah:  i would love to use them. but i would also need help thinking about how to use them effectively.but i really think that students connect with them.but i would need help learning how to use that technology to spurn students interest in discussion and as not to get lost in the technology.

Michael Sean Gallagher:  sure

so support of some support would be necessary for best practices, training, etc?

Sarah:  definitely.

Michael Sean Gallagher:  Interesting. Could you imagine a scenario where say introductory undergraduate courses, the real beginning stages of university education, were offered entirely “mobile”, online or otherwise?

Sarah:  yes.  definitely.

but there would have to be some component of interaction…even mobile interaction.

Michael Sean Gallagher:  social interaction?

Sarah:  i really believe in the power of discussion to further historical analysis.

mobile social interaction

Michael Sean Gallagher:  Yes, agreed.

Very interesting

Sarah:  so, either through chat at a certain time, or through teleconferencing.

but some level of not just reading and writing essays.

In summation, Sarah presents a narrative of confidence as historical teacher, learner, and researcher. She is confident in the way she approaches her teaching responsibilities, confident in her willingness to engage in self-assessment, and confident in her experimentation with technology. Sarah further reiterates the common refrain of isolation and solitude in the doctoral research process, an isolation presented in contrast to the camaraderie of her role as teacher.

Participant 4: Betty

Betty is a doctoral student at the University of the Midwest, a large American research and teaching institution. Her work falls broadly under the subdiscipline of the History of Science. Betty presents an interesting case of a lifelong academic, one fully immersed in higher education, pursuing interdisciplinary research with elements of field research. Betty reiterates the common themes of isolation, stresses the role of her fellow doctoral students in alleviating that isolation, and, similar to Sarah, presents an informed view of her role as teacher. Betty’s experience skews to the positive partly due from her participation in a strong social network, a situation also present in Franka and Rory, the two oral historians interviewed. Betty assesses her relationship to her institution in response to the theoretical question of what would you not be able to do if you were denied access to your physical institution, in this case the University of the Midwest.

Transcript 4.1

Michael Sean Gallagher: Say you weren’t able to physically associate with your university due to relocation or what have you. Is there anything that you wouldn’t be able to do in your role as historian?
Betty: Well, there are a few different categories of things that might come up.
Betty: First,
Betty: To a significant degree, I would not be able to take part in the on-campus communities I’m involved in.  There are at least two brown-bags or colloquium that I go to weekly.  And my fellow History of science grad students have a happy hour, etc.  These are pretty important for hearing new ideas, getting feedback, and, honestly, just venting.  I know a few other grad students who are away from campus right now while dissertating, and despite their best efforts, they don’t tend to keep in touch.  It works out well for them if they find a community where they’re at, but I know some of them have floundered because it is hard to stay on track without being physically present and having to see your advisor at events, etc.!
Michael Sean Gallagher: Totally understood there
Betty: Second, just practically, if you are not in a town with a good library, you can be really slowed down.  UW’s library system is amazing, and I would generally still be OK because databases, etc. are still available online off-campus.  But the physical books aren’t really replaceable.  I think there might be some way to actually have our library’s books mailed to you.  As long as you’re not in the middle of nowhere, there is ILL.  But from experience working in Montana as compared to the Midwest– you can get the same work done for the *most* part, but you will be very much slowed down.
Betty: I guess those are the two main things that come to mind.  I can’t emphasize the 1st one enough.

Betty’s narrative actively stresses the social, constructivist elements of historical study and research (brown-bags, colloquium). She stresses the role of this socialization for the research itself (new ideas, getting feedback), as well as for mitigating frustrations (venting). Betty presents her experience in contrast to colleagues who are not physically present on campus, stressing the need for socialization to mitigate isolation (“works out well for them if they find a community”,) as well as for academic success (“some of them have floundered”). For Betty, this socialization seems critical to success both professionally and emotionally (venting, sharing experiences). This passage leads this author to the conclusion that Betty’s views towards socialization in the doctoral process influence her assessment of mobile learning (indeed, any “distance” learning).

Betty correlates mobile learning with online learning, contrasting this correlation with student perceptions of classroom based coursework. The following passage presents a narrative of Betty as teacher interpreting student perceptions of online learning. The language Betty employs in this passage is revealing, as it includes narrations from Betty herself, from Betty’s students, and from peers. Betty relates views of online learning as “easier versions of “real” courses” and “fluffy”; she further presents a remedy for this perception of easy and fluffy by making the course “writing intensive”. However, this fails to address the skills or confidence necessary to present historical argument verbally, an aspect of historical practice and identity that Betty deems important.

Transcript 4.2

Betty: I don’t think it’s a great idea to make a wholesale move to online courses.  I have not taught or taken an online course, though I’ve used a web component when TAing.  So, maybe I can’t make a completely informed decision.  It is my experience, though, that students view online courses as easier versions of “real” courses.  This is not to say that an online course *couldn’t* be as rigorous as a face to face meeting.  Maybe the things I’ve heard about online courses from friends are partly based in the kind of students who tend to opt for these courses, and maybe it is based on the kinds of courses that are offered online here.  I think they tend to be viewed as “fluffy.”  Apart from this, I think a main reason I have a negative reaction to the idea of having a large percentage of online courses is that I think students need to learn to express themselves verbally.  ostensibly, an online course could be writing intensive, and really get students to make good written arguments.  But that doesn’t translate into the skill or confidence to do this verbally.
Betty: In a best case scenario, I could imagine a course that addresses historical writing, and specifically argumentation.  This could be done in a small course by sharing essay drafts.  I’ve seen these sorts of courses use the message board format a lot.  This can get a good discussion going, but I think it really needs to be guided, and actually reading and commenting on classmates posts would need to be incentivized.  It sounds like it takes a lot of work on the professor or TA’s part to keep them focused and get them understanding what a good historical argument looks like– i.e. not to just throw out claims or opinions.

The preceding passage establishes Betty as invested teacher, one concerned about the processes of History and the role that historical teaching in higher education has in bringing that to bear (understanding what a good historical argument looks like”). Betty stresses throughout her narrative the need for socialization and instructional presence, needs that cannot be fully addressed, in Betty’s estimation, by online learning and mobile learning. Betty presents an interesting narrative of tribal affinity for the discipline and affinity for the institution itself, unique amongst the participants.

Participant 5: Franka

The following two participants, Franka and Rory, present interesting narratives of the role of technology, research, and professional expectations for oral historians. Franka and Rory both have affiliations with multiple institutions (both universities and museums/archives), are both situated abroad (in respect to their home institution), both regard interpersonal communication as a necessary prerequisite for their historical research, and both appear to be, as presented in their narratives, eminently satisfied with their chosen profession. Both Rory and Franka are engaged in collecting oral histories from survivors of genocidal acts, transcribing those histories, and drawing research from their findings. Both are doctoral students completing their doctoral research.

To begin, Franka presents a narrative of enthusiasm, confidence, and experimentation.
Franka presents, in contrast to Betty, a non-linear career path to her present role as doctoral researcher. Like Betty however, Franka stresses the social elements of historical practice, as well as the affinity of smaller subdisciplines.

Transcript 5.1

Franka: Well, I actually started my professional life as a social worker and worked at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum from 1998-2004. I was working with Holocaust survivors and their families on behalf of the museum – providing services, helping with issues ranging from restitution to referring (unofficially, of course – federal institution!) to psycho-social support services.
Franka: I also planned programs and even parties and receptions for survivors, traveled around the US and Canada supporting survivor communities in N. America.
Franka: So, my exposure to history was very specifically to THIS history, and my interest is more of a passion for working with the PEOPLE (as we said before!) and how they live with this history, etc.

Franka’s narrative places great stress on the specialized elements of the particular history and the people (“THIS history” and “the PEOPLE”), indicating a level of tribal affiliation for her subdiscipline, as well as emphasis on the social elements of her historical practice. Franka proceeded to narrate her particular experience in Vienna and the particulars of her research, stressing the social relationships present in survivor groups, even demonstrating an affinity for these groups.

Franka then proceeds to narrate her entry into the discipline, her being based abroad from her home institution, and the particular circumstance of her research group (genocide survivors). Franka’s narrative on how she came to enter the discipline itself is revealing both in terms of its non-linear nature as well as her self-revelation at the end of the following passage on her relationship to her work being inherently mobile.

Transcript 5.2

Franka: So….in a way, I came to history because when I told “my” survivors in DC (I ran a monthly survivor group in DC) about my volunteer work in Vienna, they reacted with this curiosity-to-rage, and I realized – no one has written about this (in English, as I realized further on).
Franka: There is only 1 Holocaust history PhD program and it’s in MA at University of the Northeast University. My advisor is also a “victim scholar” who works with survivor testimony (oral histories, diaries, memoirs, etc.), framed with the archival stuff, and is therefore the PERFECT person for me to work with. So, I packed up and left my dear, sweet husband and moved in with a friend near Worcester to start my studies (again…) in 2007.
Franka: From 2007-2009, I did my coursework and then in spring 2010, I passed my Comps, and last summer, started my research in DC (USHMM) and NYC.
Franka: and then in Sept., I was able to move back to Vienna full-time (I had spent 2007-2010 going back and forth over breaks and stuff, getting to see my husband/partner/best friend/whatever the hell you want to call him…something like every 2 months)
Franka: So, I’m here on a Fulbright but also live here permanently, and am “ABD” – and theoretically will start really writing in April or May of this year.
Franka: But I still can’t imagine that!!!
Franka: And as I am writing this, I am realizing all the “mobile” ways I did my work, lived my personal life (thank god for SKYPE!), etc…!
Franka: funny

Franka demonstrates a mobility in her personal and professional work and is evidently self-aware of this mobility (“I am realizing all the “mobile” ways I did my work”). Franka’s mention of her use of Skype (itself a mobile application) broaches the subject of technology used for her studies (Transcript 5.3) and her research (Transcript 5.4), indicating a general level of enthusiasm and acceptance of the role of technology in the historical process.

Transcript 5.3

Michael Sean Gallagher: certainly not averse to it!
Franka: haha
Franka: no, can’t be.
Franka: I have NO clue how anyone wrote a dissertation without the internet and all its implements – much less without word processing software!
Franka: I seriously wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have all the 2011 technological support. I am sure I wouldn’t have entered into this if I had to write things by hand, work from photocopies, etc.

Transcript 5.4

Franka: My interviews? I use a digital recorder. I bought it before I had an iPhone – I think I could probably use the iPhone now, but I am used to the little recorder and the survivors think it’s cool!
Michael Sean Gallagher: Makes sense to me
Franka: The other thing that will be significant (I hope) to my research will be using the Shoah Foundation (Steven Spielberg’s oral history collection project) interviews – you can access them at various locations worldwide, and my intention is to use the terminals at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum this summer.
Michael Sean Gallagher: So they are available at kiosks? Interesting approach. Promoting engagement with the physical space?
Franka: Well, to use them entails Internet 2 and only certain big universities and institutions have that kind of access. If I recall correctly, USHMM hooked in on the Univ. of Maryland’s Internet 2 connection. But my little university, University of the Northeast, also has an internet 2 connection, thanks to a very generous donor.
Franka: So, I could go to my university to access them (but it’s in Worcester – yuk – have you been there?) and would rather be in DC!

Franka in the preceding passage (Transcript 5.4) indicates the ubiquity of technology in her research process, as well as the notion of mobility in her work. Her relationship to space is fluid, constantly requiring travel to one location or another for access to archival documents or survivor testimony. This mobility is infused through Franka’s narrative as a condition for her work and continues into the following passage outlining her relationship to her “home” institution, namely the University of the Northeast.

Transcript 5.5

Franka: Definitely University of the Northeast is my “home” institution, but I am now thankfully based in Vienna until the end of this process. Plus a few months in DC this summer on fellowship, but Vienna is now my base.
Michael Sean Gallagher: How often do you interact with University of the Northeast(w/colleagues/admin /libraries)?
Franka: Classmates – a few times a week.
Franka: Administrative asst. in our institute – once a week.
Franka: week, that is!
Michael Sean Gallagher: How important is that interaction to you? Towards sustaining you, your work?
Franka: My advisor – definitely twice a month
Franka: All of it – very. A few of my classmates are very close friends of mine now and we are all kind of living the same hell, as it were…so we can commiserate via email, Facebook, Skype…
Franka: My advisor is crucial – and although we have a commitment to talk twice a month (and when I say “talk,” I mean email!), we email much more frequently – maybe twice a week?
Franka: And the admin. staff at our center makes sure we have our fellowship payments deposited – very important – and that we are properly enrolled to keep student loans in deferral! They also forward my mail, etc.
Franka: and they pass along job announcements, fellowship opportunities, significant messages about conferences and happenings in the field
Franka: so, that connection is really important to keep from being totally isolated from what’s going on in the US and at University of the Northeast, too.
Franka: Yes, and I think it keeps me in check so that when I report in on what I am doing, I can also see that I’ve actually done something! Or not enough, as some weeks might reveal…but I imagine it keeps me/us in closer contact with our own progress, too.

The preceding establishes Franka’s relationship with her institution, but uniquely (in regards to the other participants) she does not present a narrative driven by isolation, partly due to the active engagement she has with her institution. Her institution actively mitigates isolation through consistent communication, reviews of progress and expectations, and more. Aside from the work of her institution, Franka’s isolation is mitigated through her social channels, a common theme from the participants.

Transcript 5.6

Michael Sean Gallagher: I see. Do you ever feel isolated in your research?
Franka: Well, actually no – but I am in a unique situation, a very lucky situation.
Franka: I have a lot of friends in the field here in Vienna, too, and see them quite often.
Franka: my previous work actually connected me with survivor work going on in Vienna before I even moved here and one of the friends I made through survivor contacts later hired me on a project and we hang out a lot – went to his birthday party last night! and another of my very close friends here is actually the director of the contemporary history institute at the University of Innsbruck
Michael Sean Gallagher: A fairly strong social network there in Vienna?
Franka: (“contemporary history” is the German euphemism for Holocaust studies.)
Franka: Very.
Franka: And Roland’s (author’s note: Franka’s husband) FOOTNOTE family is pretty great – his cousin is my best Viennese friend and she’s very smart and educated and interested in my work, so i have a girlfriend to go out with on the spur of the moment and can still discuss what i saw that day, learned, etc…all my friends here are very engaged and interested, and so i have the possibility to discuss and benefit from their knowledge, too.
Franka: More so than my friends in the US, actually.

In summation, Franka presents the recurring themes of isolation and field research. However, Franka’s ability to mitigate isolation through her social network and her contact with her institution seems very pronounced in comparison to the other participants. Franka also presented a narrative of enthusiasm towards her profession, particularly the interpersonal relationships that comprise much of the oral histories, as well as towards how technology can augment the research process.

While Franka might not represent the traditional path of the academic historian, her entry into the profession, allegiance to her subdiscipline, and enthusiasm towards technology are revealing; further indicative is the role that mobility itself plays in her professional and personal life. As an expatriate, mobility (or perhaps more appropriately, foreignness) is part of her ethos, her narrative of identity. Franka shares several of these traits with Rory, the following participant.

Participant 6: Rory

Rory is a doctoral student at the University of the Northeast as well as an affiliate of several universities throughout Europe. Based in Warsaw, Poland, Rory participates in several of the same academic and support circles as Franka, communicates with his “home” university sparingly, and conducts his research independently. Rory presents a narrative of reflective self-confidence, a scholar comfortable with his chosen profession, yet reiterates several themes consistent across all the interviews, namely the importance of field research and the isolation doctoral students experience. What is unique about the oral historians (Franka and Rory) is their seeming acceptance of this isolation as being an inescapable part of the doctoral experience.

In the following passage, Rory describes the research process as it applies to his work; throughout, we see evidence of mobility as it involves field research, mentions of “bases” of activity perhaps implying nodes of locality and self-identification. The use of terms like “base” is reiterated and perhaps reinforced by the author.

Transcript 6.1

Michael Sean Gallagher-Gotcha. Makes sense. So what does research look like for you? I mean, are you situated in an office or at home?
Rory O’Connor-Now, I am mainly conducting archival research that takes me to numerous institutions around Poland and Germany. I also conduct oral histories in my area.
Michael Sean Gallagher-What equipment do you carry with you in the field? How does that work, say at an archives?
Rory O’Connor-Obviously this depends on the archive. Typically I carry a digital camera, USB, notepad, phone (with camera), and Voice Recorder. If allowed, or if I will be taking numerous photos of the archive, I bring my computer as well – this applies to archives not in my base city (since I don’t trust leaving it at the hotel/hostel)

In the preceding, Rory established not only his research workflow, but also his relationship with technology. Technology is established as a supplementary tool for data collection and although Rory self-identifies as a technological novice, he demonstrates in this passage a working familiarity with technology. Continuing through the research workflow, Rory begins to establish the social dimensions of doctoral studies in the following passage. In a common theme reiterated in most of the interviews, Rory looks to social groups for emotional support, a group for discussing “the joys and headaches” of research. In this instance, Rory demonstrates a working familiarity with using technology to alleviate isolation. Some mobile technology (Skype) is ubiquitous, embedded in the fabric of his social and academic life.

Transcript 6.2

Michael Sean Gallagher-So after you collect all this data and you return to some home base for analysis, do you find yourself consulting colleagues? I guess I wonder how “social” the analysis process becomes, if at all. Do you look for peer feedback and the like?
Rory O’Connor -Yes. There is always discussion with my advisor(s). But I am sure that Franka has told you that there is a group of 4 PhD colleagues (incl. myself) that stay in contact – via skype, phone, or visit – and discuss the joys and headaches associated with obtaining, collecting, and analyzing our data.
Rory O’Connor-Yes, all different: Austria, Hungary/Israel, Poland/Germany, and Italy. Yes, but we are really very close…even from day 1, AND we all think that it is very important and beneficial to share experiences and help each other through this process.
Michael Sean Gallagher-Fantastic. Good point there. Is this sharing of experiences something that is encouraged by the university? Or was this internally in your group?
Rory O’Connor -Good question. The Center does support and encourage but I feel that it is something that we worked at maintaining, especially after leaving for field research
Michael Sean Gallagher -That makes sense to me. So, it feels as though mobility, in terms of being in the field, is kind of built in to your subject? I mean, you are out there in the field away from the home base
Rory O’Connor Yes, well we are all Modern European historians so travel is a constant since it is an American university

In the preceding passage, Rory presents a narrative of affinity to the subdiscipline and his colleagues and less to his institution, a consistent theme of tribal affiliation. Further, Rory does not place himself in opposition to technology, but rather qualifies his experience with it. In the following passage, Rory builds a bit on his experience with technology and the spectrum of use in the profession; he goes so far as to issue a mandate for the profession.

Transcript 6.3

Michael Sean Gallagher-Fairly broad question so my apologies but do you see any bias in the discipline for or against technology? Or do you see it as a generational breakdown?
Rory O’Connor -I have never experienced this at my university, but I have heard the stories of historians who would never access material on-line since it is seen as non-traditional. At University of the Northeast, and I’ve asked this question, ALL sources available and accessible SHOULD be utilized.

By stressing that all sources available should be utilized, Rory establishes a narrative of professional expectation and disciplinary practice. In summation, Rory reiterated several common themes of isolation and peer support for alleviating that isolation. His shared experience with Franka, both in terms of subdiscipline, location (expatriate), and non-traditional career path, generated a familiar narrative, one of self-confidence and satisfaction. Rory expands on this narrative by articulating professional expectation in use of resources and technology, an articulation that establishes his self-identification as a practicing member of the profession. Rory presents further evidence (Franka, Roger, Helmut as well) of mobility itself, expressed through field research, being a facet of the historical experience.

Participant 7: Helmut

Helmut presents a narrative of a non-traditional career path and of a historian at ease with his use of technology. Helmut is affiliated with a large American university (State University of Upper New York) and specializes in Lusophone African History. Helmut reiterates several common themes, namely a limited association with the host university, the importance of field research, and a self-confidence exhibited as resourcefulness. Helmut also demonstrates a familiar eagerness to use technology more in his teaching and research roles. Helmut, similar to Roger, demonstrates a consistent theme of pragmatism in the following passage.

Transcript 7.1

Helmut: Sure. I am getting my PhD in History. I am studying part-time and working on my dissertation. I am a high school History teacher during the day. My specialty is African history, specifically Lusophone Africa, which are the former Portuguese colonies of Africa, namely Angola and Mozambique.
I also chose Lusophone African History as there are many Africanists in academia, but mostly they focus on Anglophone and Francophone countries so the vast majority of research is done on these areas. So it seemed I would be more marketable if I were to choose something a little less covered, namely Lusophone Africa in Mozambique and Angola. So a part of it at least was a very pragmatic decision.
Helmut: yeah, I am a high school teacher in New York and have been for quite some time. I am married and have a young daughter so part-time is really the only option for me. I study in Albany, which is a two hour commute either way so that is challenging.
Michael Sean Gallagher: wow, that sounds difficult.
Helmut: it was very difficult, although I don’t have to visit the campus as much now. Mostly just doing research. But I used to get a whirlwind tour of Albany driving up two hours, taking a three hour class and then driving back for two hours and then doing the whole thing starting at 5 AM the next day. It was difficult. No chance to really socialize or linger around campus. That sort of thing.

Helmut establishes socialization as a circumstantial activity. Helmut places himself in opposition to that socialization by demonstrating how circumstance thwarted his ability to socialize. What is unique to Helmut’s narrative is his contentedness with that circumstance. Helmut presents self-assuredness in these passages, a self-assuredness that overcomes adversity. This circumstance of commute, dual roles, (high school teacher, PhD student), and domestic situation (married, recent father) also affects his participation in the historical expectation of field research; in short, it impedes his mobility. Helmut, in the following passage, describes his data collection and research process, illustrating several common uses of technology evident in many of the interviews.

Transcript 7.2

Michael Sean Gallagher: so can you describe your process a bit? When you go to the site and sit at the Archives, how do you work?
Helmut: well for example when I went to the National Archives of Portugal in Lisbon, which is really well run, one of the best, I sit and request documents and they bring them up and I write down in my notebook, a legal yellow one, all the numbers, titles of the documents that I want.
Michael Sean Gallagher: like a bibliography?
Helmut: exactly, no time to read them on the spot. Just quickly see if I want to read the larger item. So I write down all the ones I want, and this is combing through thousands of documents and me there from the minute they open to the minute they close, like 11 hours a day, bleary-eyed, I write them all down. I have my laptop with me, a memory stick, a camera as well. I write it all down and then at night i transfer it all to a Word doc just in case I lose the notebook. Backup a backup. I then take the list of the total documents I want, for me it was over 3000 of them and give them to the Archives and they scan them and put them on a CD-ROM and send that to me. I pay for it of course, and it isnt cheap, hundreds of dollars, but a good service. I get it in the email later and then I start digging through it. I put all of this on a memory stick and I store a bit online. But mostly it is me, my laptop, a notebook, a memory stick, a camera, which I use sort of like a scanner, taking pictures of documents I want to remember. Kind of low-tech but it works for me.

Helmut qualifies this approach as “low-tech”, but it demonstrates pragmatism (“it works for me”), a common theme in several of the historians’ approaches to technology. Helmut uses technology to enhance or improve his existing research practices. Most, if not all, of the historians expressed an eagerness to use technology more, presumably to further enhance their existing practices. The interview then returned to the social dimension of doctoral research, a topic briefly alluded to by Helmut in the opening introductions (commute limiting Helmut’s ability to mingle and socialize). The following passage illustrates Helmut’s isolation, as well a qualification on why that isolation exists (circumstance of family, job).

Transcript 7.3

Michael Sean Gallagher: Do you feel the lack of social context? Do you ever feel isolated?
Helmut: yeah, certainly. There is a lot of that. It is a fairly isolating experience, but that is the nature of my situation. I have my family, my job, so there is only so much that I can do at the university. But yes, it can be isolating sometimes.

Helmut mentions isolation, even going so far as to quantify that isolation (“lots of that”). However, Helmut’s narrative is one of self-assuredness and confidence, of overcoming adversity imposed by circumstance. His resourcefulness is evident in his approaches to technology and his willingness to juggle social and work responsibilities with his graduate studies. Helmut is looking, presumably, to technology to alleviate some of these burdens and demonstrates a willingness to embrace technological solutions to enhance learning and research.

Discussion of Findings
This research specifically attempted to avoid defining mobile in this context to avoid technological determinism, an omission that was established in both the preliminary communication and the interviews. Several of the participants asked pointedly what mobile meant in this context and several had negotiated their own working definitions of mobile learning (Roger, in particular, had a lengthy and articulate view of what mobile learning would encapsulate). This interest, and repeated enthusiastic responses from several of the participants towards mobile learning, established a generally positive stance towards the use of technology in History in higher education.

When viewed collectively several themes from the narratives stand out as being noteworthy for the practice of History. Most of the participants expressed in their narratives the following themes, among others:

  • Separation of classroom instruction and research
  • Isolation, collegiality, and limited association with institution

Separation of Classroom Instruction and Research

In regards to the separation of learning and research, several of the participants established a narrative where classroom instruction or required coursework preceded the larger research phase of their doctoral studies. There was expressed a certain separation of these activities both emotionally and even geographically (Franka, Rory were forced to reluctantly uproot their existing habitats to attend formal coursework preceding their research). In some narratives, classroom instruction was mentioned vaguely or not at all (Roger, Tia both mentioned actual coursework in passing, stressing rather the encompassing experience of field research and collegial interaction).

Those with teaching responsibilities, past or present, represent an interesting subdivision of the overall participant group. Especially pronounced in this group with teaching responsibilities (Helmut, Betty, Sarah), we see great concern in establishing skills consistent with historical practice. Tia was the lone participant with teaching duties that didn’t emphasize the acquisition of these skills (indeed, the mention of her teaching duties was in relation to access to the physical campus hypothetical question). Helmut teaches secondary school History, while Betty and Sarah both have university-level teaching responsibilities; all expressed interest in using technology more effectively in their classroom activities and all stressed a need for linking that use to best practices (Betty, Sarah) and overall impact (Helmut). Betty, in particular, expressed some skepticism over the use of elearning and mobile learning as a wholesale substitute for classroom learning, stressing the need for collegial interaction and instructional presence. Helmut and Sarah’s concern was strictly targeted towards linking technology use to best practice. For Sarah, this best practice was for developing skills consistent with historical practice, while for Helmut this best practice was directed towards developing creative thinking in his students. For Betty, Sarah, and Helmut, this concern for best practices might be somewhat pragmatic as well; to alleviate existing time constraints, instruction on how to effectively use instructional technology and mobile learning might be necessary.
Isolation, collegiality, and limited association with institution

The distinction made between classroom instruction, coursework, and the independent nature of doctoral research effectively served as transitions in the narratives to the discussion of isolation in the doctoral process. This isolation, being so ubiquitous throughout most of the narratives, serves as an organizing facet; narrative development was often constructed in preparation for (coursework) and response to (coping mechanisms, collegiality) this isolation. Responses to this isolation varied considerably in the narratives with several only tacitly acknowledging it, some deploring it, some levying even partial blame at the host institution (university) for not alleviating it, yet most accepting the isolation as part of the recognized  practice of the historical community.In some this discussion of isolation was counteracted by coping mechanisms establishing the participant as resourceful and often social practitioner of History. Several of the participants (Helmut, Rory, Franka) pointed to circumstance (domestic situation, the nature of the research) as playing a role in that isolation or lack of connection to the institution itself. Betty and Sarah, the two participants demonstrating the strongest connection to their host institutions, articulated the role of the social circle in alleviating the isolation. This socialization was expressed in pragmatic terms as exchanges of ideas, best practices, or even just to “vent”.

For the oral historians in particular, socialization served a strong role in their narratives and  several instances of mobile technology were laden in these discussions of socialization. Franka and Rory demonstrated their collegiality by drawing attention to the core group of doctoral students that interacted consistently, often through applications such as Skype, a group that was self-organized rather than explicitly encouraged to do so by the host institution. This self-organization was highlighted by several of the participants as a manifestation of their general resourcefulness (Franka, Rory, Helmut, Betty).

Isolation, for several of the participants, was linked to historical identity and practice, namely the field research experience. Several had relocated abroad to perform this field research (Franka, Rory), some traveled abroad for extensive periods of time to conduct this research (Tia, Helmut, Sarah), and all stressed to some degree the importance of the experience, if only to access primary source documents often found in national archives, libraries, and other institutions.

This isolation is not a phenomenon exclusive to History; it permeates many doctoral courses of study across disciplines. Generally, this isolation is augmented or even caused by miscommunication, a miscommunication that confuses priorities, objectives, and progress. While these seven participants demonstrated considerable resourcefulness, all aside from Roger had expressed feelings of isolation. According to Aziz and Kohun, miscommunication generally takes places on two fronts: student to student and student to institution or faculty (2006, 24). Many of the participants expressed a satisfaction with student to student communication (Franka, Rory, Betty), but none of the participants expressed a strong sense of satisfaction with communication with the institution (Franka and Rory skewed positively, but not overwhelmingly). This isolation, being so prominent, is a factor that must be considered for any mobile learning program, environment, or course of study.

Historians interviewed for this study are generally receptive to the greater role that technology can play in the learning and research processes of historical practice. However, the narratives in which they couched that receptiveness revealed recurrent themes of separation, isolation, and limited institutional attachment. These recurring themes represent opportunities for further research for mobile learning in History in higher education.

The general level of receptiveness to mobile learning and technology to improve historical practices was palpable for the majority of the participants. However, due to the separation in most of the narratives of historical coursework and historical research, further research is needed to determine the levels of receptiveness to mobile learning that exists within both of these spheres (for teachers and researchers). For those with teaching duties, the concern expressed for linking use of mobile learning (indeed all instructional technology) to best practices in History was instructive. Further research is needed to properly map existing disciplinary teaching practice with the affordance and limitations of mobile learning. Those with teaching responsibilities stressed the need for technology to aid in the processes of creativity, the construction of knowledge statements, and the presentations of that knowledge in written and oral form. Research that isolates each of these (creativity, knowledge statements, long-form writing, and presentation) as units of historical learning is needed before mobile learning can be introduced into existing History curricula in higher education.

The recurring theme of isolation proves instructional in its recommendations of further research and possibly the potential of mobile learning to stimulate student to student communication to alleviate isolation. Further research is needed to determine the exact nature of that isolation, whether or not it is rooted in historical practice, institutional inefficiency, or other unidentified factors. Mobile learning might be developed to incorporate social mechanisms for reducing that isolation, either through existing applications that were mentioned in the interviews (Skype), or through the development of novel applications that network larger communities of interest. Since several participants expressed the affinity they felt towards their academic tribes (subdiscipline), this appears to be the logical focus of activity in any mobile learning solution for higher education; however, further research is needed to determine the nature of this affinity for the community of interest and whether it is a partial result of an institutional deficiency.

Expanding on the use of mobile learning for potentially reducing isolation in the research phase of historical practice, further research is needed to determine whether mobile learning can capture and potentially enhance instruction in History in higher education. Several participants with teaching duties stressed that any use of mobile or instructional technology should be tied to best practices, indicating that further research is needed to determine best practices of mobile technology for instruction.

Revealing in the majority of the participants’ narratives was the limited affinity for the “home” institution, which in most cases was the university offering the degree program in History. Further research is needed to determine whether this limited affinity resonates beyond the selected participants and is felt throughout the historical community. If this limited affinity reverberates throughout the larger historical community then it calls into question the appropriateness of mobile learning being initiated by the university itself. If this were the case, a mobile learning program would presumably need to “live” at a disciplinary level independent of the home institution. However, further research is needed to determine whether this issue of affinity is indeed a broader disciplinary phenomena.


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